"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Pre-season optimism at Ashton Gate?

They say good things come to those who wait. Let’s hope so!
I mockingly suggested on Twitter yesterday morning that City fans should enjoy the day, as it would be the only day in the calendar we would be in the League Cup (or ‘COC’ as they seem to have decided to rebrand it!).  I was mostly joking, I was mostly positive and felt, actually, this could be our year for a little run.  Sadly it was not to be.
But let’s not read too much into one match.  The real business starts on Saturday and although it may be a long season ahead, the signs from pre-season were largely encouraging.
I would have been the first to tell people not to read too much into those results for the past few years when they’ve been poor, so we must take them with a pinch of salt, but what particularly encouraged me on the face of the results was that we were scoring goals and seemingly playing a more attacking style of football.  After the relative drudge through the past two seasons, this seems a refreshing new outlook.
Being unable to make it myself for any of the pre-season games (shocking I know but work, family and the Olympics put paid to that), I was grateful when Joe Folker (@Folks23) offered to write up his view of events as he saw them, with a particular focus on the new signings who many of us might not yet have seen.

Firstly, the highly satisfying and convincing victory over ‘that lot’ from South Gloucestershire.
Playing a 4-4-2 formation from the start, Joe’s first observation was that the squad looked fitter than in previous seasons, with “Pearson and Skuse particularly so in midfield, constantly running”.
There were also positive words for the wide men, including the oft-criticised Martyn Woolford
“Woolford, who is surely long overdue a good season seemed a reliable outlet, and linked up well with Jon Stead.  Yannick Bolasie was a bright spark, although with no real end product on this occasion, unlike seemingly on the Scotland tour.”
Of the new signings, Joe had this view:
“Heaton had very little to do, aside from one dodgy kick!  Everything else he had to do, he did well.  Horrendous orange kit though!  Mark Wilson at right back look assured, calm, good on the ball. Had one very good flurry forward and produced a good cross.  Defensively we weren’t really tested, although Greg Cunningham seemed solid enough.
In midfield, Jody Morris had a 20 minute cameo which included one delightful pass with the outside of his foot, but will be overshadowed by a monster tackle on one of the Gas players – he will add steel to us!  Anderson look bright, bubbly and quick – I’m excited by him.”

Whilst the performance and result against a league two side could be quickly discarded when looking for pointers, surely a game against a vibrant Southampton, looking to make an instant impact in the Premier League, would be a better marker?  Although they were remarkably defeated twice last season by unusually good performances, this would be a further test against a side at the level we aspire to be at.
“We started with a 4-5-1 formation, later changing to more of a 4-4-1-1 and the first 20 minutes saw us under immense pressure, getting little of the ball.  After the change in shape, we then became more of a threat.  Stead took his goal well, and Albert Adomah was first class throughout the game”
“But the biggest plus for me was the way Jody Morris – already written off by some – controlled the game and dictated play. He was very good on the ball, and I can’t recall him giving it away.  Again the fitness was clear to see, and we were playing at a relatively high tempo with some great forward runs from Foster, utilising his pace down the right.  Stead seemed isolated at times until Adomah was pushed up more alongside him.
Nyatanga’s disturbution is still a worry, and caused us trouble at times but overall there seemed to be much more of an idea of what we were actually trying to achieve as opposed to other seasons when we seem to have had no clear direction. “
Of the new signings, Morris has already been praised and Joe sees “a calming influence who is always available for the ball, and doesn’t often lose it.”
The others impressed Joe again too.
“This was more of a test for Cunningham, but he was fantastic up against the pacy Jason Puncheon, looks assured on the ball, and is certainly a welcome addition.  Mark Wilson had a 30-minute appearance and looked solid.  Very much a no frills right back who clearly has the ability to perform consistently at this level.  As for Anderson, again everything he did looked to be bright, bubbly and sharp!”

The final preparation game saw City head to the south coast to face league one side Bournemouth, although perhaps not a first-choice side.
“Bournemouth probably edged the early exchanges, with one great save required from Heaton, and another shot that cannoned off the bar. Kilkenny and Elliott were the midfield two in a 4-4-2 formation, and it was great to see Marv back- although he clearly wasn’t 100%. Sadly, Kilkenny was no different to last year, lots of pointing and moaning, no sign of a tackle, header, and incisive pass. The one great away performance against Millwall has not been repeated.
The second half was much better, with Bolasie and Adomah running them ragged, Yannick in particular showing great strength playing almost up front with Pitman.  Two goals in five minutes killed the game, and after wasting a chance in the first half, Pitman converted a great cross from Bolasie, before Adomah rounded the keeper for a second.”
Of the new signings, Joe felt Mark Wilson again looked assured and good on the ball, and perhaps critically “better than we have” whilst Cunningham again impressed.
“Heaton made one great save, but again had little else to do, other than barking out orders at his defence.  He looks very comfortable on the ball, meaning he is always an option and his kicking was very good.”
Joe also added some notes on the youngsters who performed, explaining “Joe Lennox looked very capable at left back, and especially good going forward.  Amandi-Holloway was off the pace, and Bobby Reid looked a touch lightweight.  Joe Edwards seemed composed in a central midfield role.  James Wilson also looked very good and maybe if paired with Fontaine, he can stem the flow of goals against!”

Joe summed up his views after these three performances.
“Overall we look fitter, sharper and seem to have better pattern to our play. We seem to have some real good pace outlets in Bolasie, Adomah and Anderson, whilst Woolford looks to be growing in confidence.  As much as in recent seasons we have endured a awful pre-season, and been told “results don’t matter”, that should also be remembered even when results are good.  It’s obviously better to be winning games and scoring goals, but Southampton were are only real threat in pre-season.

I’m hopeful of a solid season, with hopefully a positive goal difference and a top 12 finish.”
Thanks again to Joe for this review, let's hope we start the (real) season with a bang at Forest on Saturday and can replicate some of these good performances.

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